Wisconsin Public Records
Background checks involve a review of civil, criminal and financial records appropriate for gathering different types of information for different purposes. It is important to understand the availability of public records in Wisconsin and how to access this information.
Wisconsin Public Records Laws
Public records are made available in the State of Wisconsin through the Wisconsin Public Records Law (Wis. Stats. §§19.31 – 19.39). The law permits citizens access to all public documents related to the conduct of government business in the Wisconsin. This includes public records of any elected official and any employee working on behalf of any governmental body in the state. Access to such records may be made by request (via mail) to the Office of Open Government, Wisconsin Department of Justice in Madison, Wisconsin. No information related to criminal activity of any individual or other records of a non-governmental person is available through a request made through the Wisconsin Public Records Law.
Criminal records, including arrest records and those records generally available for the purpose of an employee background check are available through the Wisconsin Department of Justice. A request for information concerning the criminal history of a person arrested, charged and adjudicated in Wisconsin must be made to the Criminal Records Unit of the Wisconsin Department of Justice. The unit maintains 1.3 million records, which have been received from law enforcement agencies, district attorney offices, clerks of court and municipal courts throughout the State of Wisconsin.
Background checks that an employer performs that require the use of a fingerprint card may be submitted to the Wisconsin Department of Justice Crime Information Bureau (CIB). The CIB is responsible for the maintenance of criminal history information submitted by local law enforcement agencies in Wisconsin. A completed Criminal History Challenge Form along with a full set of fingerprints are required to determine the existence of a criminal history for a person residing in the state. If no matching fingerprint cards have been submitted by law enforcement, no matching criminal history will be made available to a requester.
Information concerning inmates within the Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC) can be found by accessing the Offender Locator portal. This portal allows access to information regarding the inmate status of any individual throughout the system. Access to the portal requires the entering of, at a minimum, the last name of the offender.
The system will return a search result matching that data point, with the following additional fields: first name, year of birth, race, county where the disposition of the person’s criminal case occurred (or where incarcerated), zip code and current status. The status of the individual is denoted as incarcerated (inc) or under active community supervision (acs). Information concerning a Wisconsin offender’s status may also be accessed via vinelink.com.
Any public records of the Wisconsin Circuit Courts regarding a criminal defendant can be accessed online through the Wisconsin Court System Circuit Court Access portal. The availability of records depends on the county in which the court case was handled, as access to the system, as well as back loading of older cases varied from county to county. Certain confidential records may bit be accessible through the portal, such as those involving adoptions, juvenile delinquency, child protection, termination of parental rights, guardianship, and civil commitments.
Vital records such as birth, death, domestic partnership, marriage and divorce for Wisconsin residents may be found by accessing the Wisconsin Department of Health Services Vital Records Service. A search for any such records may not be performed without a written application and fee (based on the type of search requested). The dates available for a requested vital record depends on the information provided by a local county’s vital records office.
For anyone looking to access public records in Nebraska, you’re in luck. The state has a strong public records law on the books that gives the public access to many records in many different state agencies.
Unlike some states that only allow residents to access public records, Nebraska allows any U.S. citizen access to records. It doesn’t matter if you live in Lincoln, Omaha, New York City, or Miami, anyone can request Nebraska public records.
While access isn’t restricted, the processes of finding and requesting records can be a bit challenging. Records are kept by different branches of government and by different state agencies, so it can be difficult to know where to start looking.
We suggest starting your search at Nebraska.gov to learn about the state and its public records laws. In addition, this guide should prove helpful to anyone planning to request public records.
The Nebraska Public Records Law was passed in 1975 and states that “all citizens of this state, and all other persons interested in the examination of the public records” may have access to them. Record requestors don’t need to state a purpose to obtain records either.
All states do exempt some public records from the public records law. In Nebraska, records that are exempt include any records that include personal information, medical records, law enforcement records, trade secrets, any security-related information, credit information, archaeological records, and employment records.
All branches of the state government including the executive, legislative, and judicial branches must adhere to the public records in the Nebraska constitution.
The state specifies a response time in the law, which is one of the fastest turnaround times in the United States: 4 business days.
For public records access in Nebraska, a person must submit a public records request to the specific agency holding the record that you want to see. Most requests can be made by email, over the phone, or in-person. Some departments do, however, require a written request.
Every department is different, so expect some variation to the rules if you’re accessing records from multiple places.
In general, a public records request should include:
Due to COVID, some public offices may have limited hours of operation. As a result, online requests are best, but if you want to go in person you should call ahead.
Criminal records provide a report of a person’s interactions with law enforcement. Employers tend to request criminal records to screen new employees. Employers want to make sure that the person they plan to hire has a clean record, which can be verified by accessing criminal records.
A criminal record lists criminal activity, arrest history, indictment records and incarceration information. When a record is pulled, you’ll likely find the following information:
To access criminal reports, reach out to the Nebraska State Patrol. The agency maintains these records, which are called Nebraska Records of Arrest and Prosecution (RAP). These records only provide criminal acts that a person is fingerprinted for, so things like minor traffic violations will not be included in the reports.
The public records law gives anyone, including employers, the ability to access these records by filling out a request form or by using an online portal.
To request a record, you need to provide a person’s full name and date of birth. The search results are more accurate if a social security number is also provided.
Inmate records, as you might expect, provide information about a person incarcerated in the state of Nebraska. A person’s offenses and the category of the offense, be it a misdemeanor or a felony, will be listed on this type of record.
An inmate record can provide personal information like race, date of birth, and nationality, but most people are looking for more specific details. The information on a Nebraska inmate record is usually pulled from several different law enforcement agencies and provides information about the offender’s:
Inmate records are kept by the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services. To locate an offender, there is a search page that can be accessed online by anyone. To get the best results, you’ll need to enter a DCS Id Number. A search can be conducted with an inmate’s first and last name as well.
To access Nebraska court records, it’s helpful to understand how the court system works. The supreme court is the highest court authority, followed by the court of appeals. The court of appeals oversees decisions made by lower courts, which in Nebraska are made up of 93 superior and trial courts spread across the state.
Court record details vary, but in Nebraska, most people find these pieces the most helpful:
In many states, accessing court records can be one of the most tedious and time-consuming. However, Nebraska has a searchable database that can provide a lot of information without sending special requests or talking with state officials on the phone.
To view court cases, visit the Nebraska Judicial Branch website. On this site, requesters can access criminal, civil, traffic, juvenile, and probate cases filed in all of the state’s county and district courts. You will be able to determine case detail, parties involved, court cost information and registrar of actions. If you want copies, you need to request them from the clerk of the court at the courthouse where the case was heard.
To conduct a search, there is a fee of $15 per search.
Vital Records are records that mark life’s milestones, like birth, marriage, divorce, and death.
In Nebraska, such records are only available to the person listed on the record, an immediate family member, or an authorized legal representative of an eligible person. Nebraska isn’t the only state that has strict rules on who can access vital records. Most states have similar rules in place.
To access a vital record, which is usually in the form of a certificate, like a marriage certificate or a death certificate, you’ll need to bring ID. The state won’t release information to just anyone, as mentioned above.
In addition, you’ll need to provide information about the vital records that you’re trying to view. Expect to provide a person’s name, which includes both a maiden and married name, along with the date of the event.
Vital records in the state of Nebraska are administered by the Nebraska Department of Health & Human Services. A request for any of these documents requires that you prove “proper purpose” in the application. This means that you must either show that you are listed on the record or are a relative or legal guardian of the registrant.
For those who prefer to access records online, the state of Nebraska does have an online portal. On this portal, you can request a record and receive a certified copy. The processing time is about two weeks and there is a charge for each certified copy.
For those looking to access a public record from a government agency, here’s a list of frequently asked questions to help clarify the rules in Nebraska:
Yes. The law does not say that being a resident of the state is required to gain access to public records.
No. The law says that all requests should go to the record-keeping agency. This is part of the challenge with accessing public records. Before a record can be accessed, a person must know which agency has the records to begin with. Sometimes tracking that information down is more time consuming than making the record request.
No government agency is exempt and that includes the Nebraska legislature. However, exemptions are made for records that include personal information, medical records, law enforcement records, trade secrets, any security-related information, credit information, archaeological records, and employment records.
The state has four business days to respond to a request and must make reasonable good faith efforts to fulfill all requests that come in.
There is no administrative appeal option provided. Court action may be taken at the district court in the jurisdiction in which the request was made.
If a request is ignored, you can inform the head of the agency or petition the attorney general as a means of action.
You can take your own scanner into a department in some cases and make your own copies. However, if this is not permitted, there could be a cost for the records. However, the law says the first four hours of staff time is free. After that, a special service charge can be levied.
Located in the southern region of the United Stated and bordered on the south by Mexico, Louisiana is also known as the “Bayou State”. Made up of vast deltas and marshland as a result of sediment washed down from the Mississippi River, the state is rich in wildlife and provides many opportunities for recreation. Louisiana is the only U.S. state to name its political subdivisions parishes instead of counties, and the state has long made provisions for the sharing of government records with the public.
The first Public Records Act in Louisiana was passed in 1940, and it was later revised in the state constitution in 1974 and again in 1978. The law is covered under Title 44 of the Louisiana state statute. The law states that “any person of the age of majority” may have access to public records in the state of Louisiana. The reason for the request and the intended use of the records is immaterial except with regards to convicted felons. Convicted felons may be able to access records but must disclose the reason for their request.
Records that are subject to the law include any record from a “public body” of the state, including executive offices, legislative bodies, and some parts of the judicial system. Records that are exempt under the law include:
Background checks in Louisiana are administered by the Louisiana State Police, Bureau of Identification and Information. Most background checks in the state require a signed authorization from the person being checked, and you cannot run a check on someone else as a private citizen. Employers, school districts, and licensing agencies have several options for requesting a background check. They can submit a form, with a signed authorization, and fingerprint card to the Bureau of Identification and Information. Or, if they qualify, there is an online background check portal that returns name-based background reports only. Either of these reports will return arrest and conviction information for the state of Louisiana only.
If you are looking for information on offenders in the Louisiana system, for victim services, or to learn more about the correctional facilities in the state, you can visit the Louisiana Department of Corrections website. There are two ways to located an offender in Louisiana. There is an automated number (225-383-4580) that will allow you to enter the offender’s DOC Number and get their current status. In the alternative, you can go to Vinelink.com and do an online search where you will be given the offenders present location, a list of convictions, and their earliest possible release date.
Information on any court in the state of Louisiana can be found on its administrator of the courts website. Some court cases can be located through an online search of the Law Library of Louisiana, but most court records will need to be requested from the appropriate courthouse where the case was heard.
Birth and death certificates in the state of Louisiana are administered by the State Registrar & Vital Records, a division of the Department of Health & Hospitals. Birth certificates are available for the last 100 years and death certificates for the last 50 years. For either of these requests, you must prove that you have a right to the certificate, such as being a relative or a legal representative. There are several ways to apply for a birth or death certificate in Lousiana:
All marriage and divorce certificates must come from the clerk of the court office in the parish where the event took place.
An unincorporated, organized territory of the United States located in the western Pacific Ocean, Guam is one of five U.S. territories with an established civilian government. The largest and southernmost of the Mariana Islands, and the largest island in Micronesia, Guam has a long history of colonization and the Guam Organic Act of 1950 established the island as an unincorporated organized territory of the U.S.. While its 161,000 residents are entitled to U.S. citizenship, Guam is not a U.S. state so citizens residing on Guam cannot vote in presidential elections and their congressional representatives are non-voting members of Congress. Guam does make provisions for the sharing of its records with the public.
The Sunshine Law of 1987 was the original public records law in Guam and was revised in the Sunshine Reform Act of 1999, which can be found in Chapter 10, Article 1-3 of the Statutes. The Law states that “every person” has the right to inspect and take copies of public documents in Guam. The reason for the request does not need to be stated, and records may be used for any purpose once obtained.
Records that are covered under the law include any records from a public agency, including the executive, legislative and judicial branches. Records that are not included, or are exempt, include:
Background checks in Guam are administered by the Guam Police Department. They have no forms or instructions available on their website but do refer to these as a Police Clearance. These record checks for the Territory of Guam only and are used for such things as pre-employment, adoption, licensing, and criminal justice cases. Records returned are usually for convictions within the last 11 years, except for DWI, which doesn’t expire. Fingerprinting may be required to run these reports.
To learn about the corrections program on Guam, find services for victims, or to locate an inmate, you can visit the Guam Department of Corrections website. Guam has only one correctional facility called Hagatna Adult Correctional Facility in Mangilao County (#3 Mashburn Lane, Mangiloa, GU 96913). There is no online search function to locate inmates, but you can call the DOC at (671) 734-4566 with questions about location and visitation.
Information on any of the courts in Guam can be found on its administrator of the courts website. The only online searches that can be done are of the court calendars for the Supreme Court and the Superior Court and the Guam Law Library, which is limited. You can obtain copies of court documents by making a public records request with the clerk of the court in the courthouse where the case was heard.
Vital records in Guam, such as birth, death, and marriage certificates are administered by the Department of Health & Social Services, Office of Vital Statistics. The office has birth and death records from October 26, 1901 to present. There is no date available for marriage certificates.
To obtain a birth, death, or marriage certificate, you must either be the person listed on the certificate or prove that you are a spouse, parent, child, or legal representative. Send a completed application with proper documentation and payment to: Office of Vital Statistics, 123 Chalan Kreta, Mangilao, Guam 96913.
Copies of divorce certificates must be requested directly from the court, and the cost of copying will vary. Your request should go to: Clerk, Superior Court of Guam, Guam Judicial Center, 120 West O’Brien Drive, Hagatna, Guam 96910.
Located in the Western United States, Montana is the 4th largest of the U.S. states yet only the 44th most populous, with just over 1 million residents. Bordered on the north by Canada and on the South by Colorado, Montana contains many mountain ranges that are a part of the Rocky Mountains. Also, unofficially known as “Big Sky Country,” Montana is famous for its Glacier National Park and Yellowstone National Park. The state government of Montana has long had provisions for the sharing of public records.
Montana passed its first public records law in 1895, just six years after attaining statehood. The law gave access to public records by statute but was broadened in 1972 when the state legislature re-wrote the Montana state constitution. This right is now written into the state constitution under Article II, Sections 8 and 9.
The Constitution provides that “any person”, regardless of citizenship, may have access to public records in Montana. The purpose of the request only matters in cases of potential invasion of privacy, and there is no restriction on the use of information once obtained.
The Act includes public records of the state government and its entities, including the executive, legislative, and judicial branches. There are exemptions, or things that you will not be able to obtain, and these include:
Background checks in Montana are the responsibility of the Montana Department of Justice, Division of Criminal Investigation. There are two types of criminal records reports in Montana. Law enforcement organizations can request a complete background check that includes warrants and criminal history in other states. The general public can request a background check on anyone through the state’s online web page that will return Montana convictions for felonies and misdemeanors.
It is also possible to get either a name-based criminal records check or a fingerprint-based criminal records check. The name-based check requires only a name, date of birth, and social security number of the person being checked. These can be requested online, in person, or by mail. The fingerprint-based check can only be requested via mail or in person.
The Montana Department of Corrections website has information for anyone looking to locate an inmate, find Victim Programs, or find other information on the correctional facilities in the state. Should you wish to locate an offender in the Montana system, the site has its own search page where you will be prompted to enter either a Department of Corrections ID Number or a First and Last Name. You’ll be given an image of the offender, if available, a list of their convictions, their current location, and their earliest release date.
Any information on courts and court cases in the state of Montana can be found on its administrator of the courts website. The only cases that can be searched online are the Montana Supreme Court cases. Other court case records will need to be requested at the appropriate courthouse.
If you need a copy of a birth certificate or death certificate, you can obtain this through the Office of Vital Statistics, Montana Department of Health and Human Services. Birth and death records are available from 1907 to present. To order either one of these, you will need to prove relationship to the parties on the certificate. There are two ways to order these:
Montana marriage and divorce certificates can only be obtained through the District Court Clerk in the county where the event occurred. Depending on the particular county, you may be able to request these by mail or in person.
Officially the Commonwealth of Kentucky, the state of Kentucky is located in the east south-central region of the United States and was originally a part of Virginia. Known as the “Bluegrass State,” Kentucky is famous for its fertile soil and for being home to the world’s longest cave system in Mammoth Cave National Park. Ranked as the 26th most populous state, Kentucky has 4.4 million residents and does make provisions for sharing its public records.
The Kentucky Open Records Act was passed in 1976 and is covered under state statute Chapter 61 KRS 61.870 – 61.884. Under the law, “any person” may inspect public records and a person includes corporations, societies, and communities. People requesting records may be asked to state their reason and intended use for the records. Commercial use of records isn’t forbidden in most cases but does need to be disclosed.
Public entities that must produce records include any public agency, including all state and local government offices. This includes the executive and legislative branches, and any body that obtains at least 25 percent of its funds from the state. The judicial branch is not subject to the law per case law via the state Supreme Court. Records that are not covered, or are exempt, include:
Background checks in Kentucky are handled by two different agencies. You can request a Criminal Records Report through the Kentucky Court of Justice using their online system. This is for a public records report, and it is also a name-based report. The Kentucky State Police also administer background checks for licensing, criminal justice and employment purposes. These are also name-based reports but require the signed consent of the person being reported on.
If you are looking for information on offenders in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, need help with Victim Services, or want to learn more about the correctional facilities in the state, you can go to the state Department of Corrections website. To search for a particular offender, the state has its own search page called Kentucky Online Offender Lookup (KOOL). You will be prompted to enter Last, First, and Middle Name of the offender. The system will provide you with the offender’s location, a list of offenses, and earliest release date.
Any information on the court system in Kentucky can be obtained from the administrator of the courts website. Court records can be searched through the state’s online CourtNet website. This will provide records on criminal and civil cases although paper copies will still need to be requested through the appropriate courthouse.
Vital records in the Commonwealth of Kentucky are maintained by the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, Vital Statistic Office. If you need a birth death, marriage or divorce certificate, there are three ways to request these:
How far back records are available, and relationship requirements depend on the type of record being requested.
A Midwestern and Great Lakes region state, Indiana is nicknamed “The Hoosier State”, which refers to its country roots. Indiana is the 16th most populous state in the nation, with over 6.5 million residents. A large part of the state’s economy comes from manufacturing and much still from farming; the state does have provisions in its statutes for public access to government records.
Indiana was an early adopter of public records law, with its Hughes Anti-Secrecy Act being passed in 1953. It was found to be too narrow of a statute and was replaced in 1983 by the Public Records Act, which is covered in Chapter 3 of Article 14 of Title 5 in the Indiana Code. The Act states that “any person” can access public records in Indiana. The person requesting records does not have to state the reason for the request, but there are a few restrictions on the use of the information. For example, lists of names, addresses, and email addresses cannot be disclosed for commercial or political purposes.
The records covered under the Act include records from all public entities, including the executive, legislative, and judicial branches, subject to various exemptions. The records that are exempt include:
Background checks in the state of Indiana are performed through the Indiana State Police. A Limited Criminal History report can be requested on anyone by anyone through the online system for a fee. This will produce a report that will return a list of convictions over a year old and arrests less than a year old. If the request is for licensing or a government position, the background check will be handled through that agency and will be more thorough fingerprint-based check. Employers wishing to request a criminal background check must get a signed authorization form from the applicant before obtaining one of these reports.
To obtain information on offenders in the state of Indiana, learn about services for victims, or get other help with state correctional programs, you’ll want to visit the Indiana Department of Corrections website. To locate an offender, you can search on their website with either an Offender Number or just a First and Last Name. You will receive information on the offender’s conviction, their current location, and earliest possible release date.
Information on courts in Indiana can be obtained through the administrator of the courts website. There are two sites to search court records, one for trial courts and another for appeals courts. If you would like to obtain paper copies of court files, you will need to request them from the appropriate courthouse.
Vital records in the state of Indiana are maintained by the state Department of Health. If you need a birth or a death certificate, there are three ways to request these:
If you need a marriage or divorce certificate, you can only obtain these from the county in which the marriage or divorce occurred. How far back records are available, and relationship requirements depend on the type of record being requested.
Located in the Appalachian region of the United States, West Virginia was one of only two states to form during the American Civil War. While classified as part of the South, it borders Ohio and Pennsylvania to the north, with its capital and largest city being Charleston. The state is known for its mountains and coal mining industry and, with just 1.8 million residents, is the 38th most populous in the U.S. West Virginia does make it possible for the public to obtain government records in the state.
The West Virginia Freedom of Information Act was passed in 1977 and can be found in Chapter 29B of the West Virginia Code. There have been several amendments over the past several decades, with some significant language changes in 1992 for the inclusion of electronic records and again in 2002 to exempt more security-related data in response to the events of 9/11.
Under the law, “every person” may have access to public records in West Virginia and this includes individuals, corporations, and associations. The purpose for the request of the records generally doesn’t matter except when it comes to requests from inmates. There are no restrictions on the use of records once obtained although courts may limit the use of personal information.
Records that are covered under the law include all records from every “public body” in the state, including the executive, legislative, and judicial branches. Records that are not subject to the law, or that are exempt, include:
Background checks in the State of West Virginia are the responsibility of the West Virginia State Police but have been contracted out to an online third party: IdentiGo.com. This company handles all fingerprint services and background checks on behalf of the state, and these are used for such things as licensing, pre-employment, and housing matters. As these are fingerprint-based checks, consent is required to request a criminal record.
To find out information about the correctional facilities in West Virginia, search for an inmate, or learn about victim services, you can visit the state Department of Corrections website. If you wish to locate an offender in the West Virginia system, you can search on the DOC Offender Search page with either a DOC Number or a name. Results will return the inmates location, list of offenses, and projected release date. If your search does not return results, you may also wish to search on the West Virginia Regional Jail & Correctional Facility Authority site, as it brings up results for regional jails as opposed to the state prison system.
Any information on courts in the state of West Virginia can be found on its administrator of the courts website. The only online search available is through its WV State Law Library, which is limited. Access to specific court records will need to go through the clerk of the court at the courthouse where the case was heard.
If you need a copy of a birth, death or marriage certificate in West Virginia, you can request these from the Vital Registration Office of West Virginia’s Health Statistics Center. There are three ways to request these documents:
The records that you are able to obtain via these methods and the required documentation will depend on the type of certificate that you are requesting.
After 1851, divorce proceedings in West Virginia were recorded by the clerk of the circuit court in the county where the divorce occurred. This is where you will need to request a copy of your divorce certificate. Divorces are not public record until 50 years after the divorce was granted.